I doubt that there is anyone out there that has not heard about Firefox, the open source web browser. It used to be that its main advantage was that it was more secure than Internet Explorer. To a point, this is still true, as it doesn’t tie into the OS. This means that if there is a flaw, it doesn’t cause a security problem to cascade into the heart of the operating system. However, recent advances in Internet Explorer have made this less of a concern. This is good for everybody.

However, I still recommend using Firefox over IE because it tends to be a bit more stable, and it is a lot more extensible. While a feature comparison between IE and Firefox is often a wash, the community around Firefox is much larger, and that gives it the edge. Here are some of the things I recommend doing to extend Firefox.

I recommend installing the following extensions in Firefox:

  • I preferred the Internet before there were ads all over the place. Even though many of us have broadband now, it does take longer when there are ads, and they also tend to get in the way of getting the information you want. Luckilly, the two extensions: Adblock + and Adblock Filterset make up for this. The first one allows you to block any ads from appearing that you may not like. The second ties the first in with a community of users, so you can also automatically block the ads that they don’t like. This makes the process no longer manual. Pretty much install these two, and most annoying ads will be gone.
  • Firefox supports tabbed browsing, which I’ve liked ever since it was introduced in Opera. However, it can be a bit troublesome to configure. That’s why I use Tab Mix Plus. This extension allows me to move the tab bar around, and set different things to occur when I click. For example, I find it much more intuitive to close a tab when I doubleclick on it.
  • I used to get annoyed at the built-in search bar at the top right of the browser window. It was good for short searches, but when I was adjusting searches, it was annoying to scroll left and right within it. Luckilly, with the Searchbar Autosizer, I don’t have to worry about it. The little search area shrinks and grows depending on what I’m searching for.
  • I have to use many different computers throughout the day, and I used to have a problem keeping track of my bookmarks. While there are now many solutions for this problem, I started with del.icio.us to track them. This allows me to store my bookmarks on their servers, and access them from everywhere. I used to have to go to their site to make and retreive my bookmarks, but with the del.icio.us and del.icio.us Complete extensions, I no longer have to do that. I just use the button and sidebar to manipulate them. Moreover, as my website ties into that system, anything I bookmark is automatically added to my website.
  • Lastly, under Linux, you have a global copy/paste buffer that activates when you highlight text. This can make it difficult to follow links that appear only in text. Yes, you can paste it into an unused area in the browser, but that sometimes has unexpected side-effects. Instead I use the Clear Address Bar extension. This gives me the ability to wipe the bar, as well as find the page in various online archive sources. I find it quite useful.

If you are a developer, you may find these extensions useful. Most users, however, will not need them.

  • The biggest extension that is the most useful is certainly the Web Developer Toolbar. This puts all of your needed web dev tools in a single place in the browser.
  • If you need to trace an HTTP dialogue, the Live HTTP Headers extension is useful. However, be sure to only turn it on when needed, as it can slow things down a bit.

Lastly, there are some hacks that you may wish to make in Firefox. See, if you go to the URL about:config you can tweak a lot of things that the browser can do without needing to load an extension.

  • I have a laptop that has a horizontal scroll across the bottom of my trackpad. In a surprising error of judgement, the Firefox developers made this default to scrolling back and forth in the browser’s history. Thus, if my finger slips a bit, I’m on a page I used to use. Most annoying. To fix this, go to about:config and mousewheel.horizscroll.withnokey.action to 0.